Austria’s Dominic Thiem celebrates winning his quarterfinal match on June 6 (Jean-Francois Badias)
Austria’s Dominic Thiem celebrates winning his quarterfinal match on June 6 (Jean-Francois Badias)|Associated Press

Tennis Friday - Abrams on French Open Men’s Semifinals, Thiem v Djokovic, Nadal v Federer

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Friday, June 7, 2019

Men’s Semifinals

Dominic Thiem (4) over Novak Djokovic (1)
For well over a year now Dominic Thiem has been called the second-best clay court player in the world. Well, now’s the time for him to show that standing, as everyone knows he’s got the ability, but only time will tell if he will prove it today. I think he will. He’s been tough as nails here in Paris, taking out both Karen Khachanov and Gael Monfils on his journey to the semis. Djokovic, on the other hand, was given a patty-cake draw and hasn’t lost a set this fortnight because his only real competition came from German Sascha Zverev in the quarters. So Djokovic has been dominant, but hasn’t been tested at all, and I think that will haunt him in this match. I like the No. 4 seed from Austria to put down the No. 1 seed and save us all from his fake, phony, awful “salute” to the fans after the match. That accomplishment, in my opinion, is worth rooting for the Austrian.

Rafael Nadal (2) over Roger Federer (3)
Nothing that has happened the past two weeks matters when these two guys take the court. In fact, nothing that has happened for the entirety of their professional careers matters, except it’s hard not to at least bring up some of the numbers to simply highlight what we are about to witness. This will be the 39th time these two International icons will play each other, and Rafa has a 23-15 career advantage over Federer with a 13-2 advantage in clay court matches played. Interestingly, Djokovic also holds a lifetime advantage over Federer, 25-22, so for those who constantly call Federer the GOAT (Greatest of all Time) I severely disagree. My argument on that issue is simple: How can you be the Greatest of All Time if you aren’t even the Greatest of your Own time? With that said, no one will deny that Federer is amazing, and what he is doing at age 37 (he’s 27-3 this year-to-date) is an incredible accomplishment in itself. To put it in perspective, Serena Williams is generally thought of as being the best women’s player of all time, but her record (she is 37 years-old also) is only 9-5. This speaks volumes as to how Father Time diminishes all athletes’ skills over time. But Federer is still dominant, and shouldn’t be thought of as over the hill. Yet Nadal is so dominant on clay courts that I’d be surprised if Federer is able to win this match. If he does, all the more power to him. After all, sooner or later Rafa has to lose in Paris. Doesn’t he?

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